Be warned I have gone a very different route with a couple of characters infact Megan commented I was making her hate one of them and was excited as usually Tara is a sympathetic character. But in this fic her lover is a vampire and she feels that they were all abandoned by Buffy, alone and vunerable to attack so she is reacting to that - I hope it works.
“Are you sure we’re in the right place?” Buffy hissed at Spike, her eyes never leaving the violent tableau they had stumbled over.
“If this isn’t the Hellmouth, then I’ll eat the Desoto,” Spike rumbled. “Nice moves though, wonder who the hell…bloody hell, is that the whelp?”
Buffy did a classic double take at the size of one of her best friend’s kicking the ass of a demon without barely breaking a sweat. “When did Xander get all with the fighty goodness?” She stared in shock as Xander exchanged a brief quip with one of the black clad men and then with an unrelenting overhand swing, cut off the two heads of his opponent. “Whoa, that was kinda impressive. Usually Xander is the one on the ground being stomped on by the demon, not the one with the nifty axey movage.”
“Oi, stop ogling the git – you’re mine, remember?” Spike reached over and pinched her firmly on the backside, a lopsided grin curling his full lips. For once in his unlife he felt confident of his woman’s affections and surprised himself by being able to tease her.
Buffy pressed herself against his side, and batted her lashes at him. “I know, honey, but a girl can be all with the surprised – cos the last time I saw Xander, he was starting to lose the battle of the twinkie inhalation.”
Spike dropped a feather soft kiss on her temple, secretly relieved that she was relaxed enough to play. All the way up, the two of them had been wrapped in moments of silence and worry about what they would have to confront on their return. Spike’s main concern was the new position in his slayer’s life and whether or not her sanctimonious friends would accept it. Buffy, he knew, was filled with grief and fear over returning to the place where her family had died and left her alone and bereft.
“Have to admit the bugger’s slimmed down and toughened up.” Spike watched as Xander spun gracefully to face a new opponent. He made a move to go join him, only to be stopped by a firm hand.
“Wait, I wanna see what they do together,” Buffy whispered and pulled him back into the shadows of the trees. The two blonds watched as the four men fought together, slicing and dicing anything that came near.
“Not bad. Never thought I’d say that but the boy’s a good fighter. Can’t work out who the other blokes are though.”
Buffy’s eyes narrowed as on of them turned and bellowed out a warning to Xander. “Watcher boys,” she muttered.
“Do what?” Spike tilted his head and sniffed the air, his ears straining to hear their voices. “Ruddy hell…”
“Yeah, that too. Check out the guy over there. Is that who I think it is?” Buffy pointed at the ferrety looking man seated in the black armoured car by the cemetery entrance, clutching tensely at the steering wheel.
“Right. Now I know that we’ve slipped into the Twilight zone. That’s m’barkeep!” Spike stared in utter shock at Willy as he twitched apprehensively in the van. His head whipped round as he felt Buffy curl in on herself. “None of that missy, not putting up with the guilts.”
“Look, though…if I hadn’t, if we hadn’t…”
“Left?” A familiar voice interrupted Buffy. The two of them whirled around, hands fisted and raised defensively.
“Peace.” Tara waved a hand and theirs laxly dropped to their sides. “Hey, Buffy.” She managed to force a crooked smile onto her face and give the stationary slayer a small wave. “Spike.” Tara folded her hands together and nodded at the unusually silent vampire. A sense of gravitas filled the cold night air.
“Tara?” Buffy stared at the grim faced Wiccan in shock. Gone were the floaty dippy hippy skirts and shirts. Instead she was dressed in jeans and a thick charcoal grey polo necked sweater, her long hair pulled back in a tight bun and her gaze firm and assessing.
“Glinda?” Spike stared at her, his sharp gaze missing nothing. Grief and anger emanated from her in waves, it’s strength calling to his demon for vengeance on her behalf. Her usually soft face was shadowed with lines of anger and the grief within, and it changed her complexion to something hovering between all out fury and pure misery. His mouth softened and his eyes took on a gentle look Reaching out, he tried to grasp hold of her hand and failed as she tucked them into her pockets. “What happened, pet?”
“Buffy? Oh my god! Buffy?” Xander’s voice interrupted the uneasy tableau. “I missed you, are you okay?” Before any of the blonds could move or say anything, Xander wrapped his arms around Buffy and spun her around in the air laughing. “You have no idea how good it is to see you…even you, fangless.”
Weatherby, Collins and Smith appeared behind the embracing friends, all of them holstering weapons. None of them removing their sharp eyes from the vampire flanking the Slayer and her friends, Collins kept a stake clutched loosely in his fingers, alert and ready to move.
“Surprised you came back. The boss told us you’d earned the right to retire.” Weatherby nodded at Buffy, who was now back on her feet and staring curiously at the three of them.
A faint line appeared between her eyes. “I know you guys from somewhere.”
“Should do. You chucked me through a skylight-- you and the other Slayer.” Smith rubbed the back of his head in rueful memory.
“Look, I think we need to take this indoors, and we better retrieve the shivering ninny before he legs it with my motor.” Weatherby gestured with his chin towards the van and walked off without a backward glance.
“Oh I knew it! Buffy, you’re alive!” Anya threw herself enthusiastically into the stunned slayer’s arms.
The three men moved around The Magic Box with an air of familiarity that was adding to Buffy and Spike’s confusion. Too little had been said on the drive back. Even Willy had been unusually recalcitrant; the newcomers, picking up on the unsaid subtext, had kept quiet and waited. The journey had been filled with silence and many glances being exchanged by them all. Buffy’s already stressed nerves were strung even tighter by the time Willy dropped them off and scurried off into the night.
Buffy patted Anya on the back awkwardly, unused to being hugged by the ex-demoness and not too sure how to handle the sobbing armful of Anya that she was currently sporting. Xander moved over and gently extracted Anya. He curled an arm around her and led the still weeping girl over to the table and sat her down. His deep voice was soft and reassuring as he talked to her, calming her down, his hands busy stroking her hair and face in smooth even strokes.
“I say, this is a turn up for the books!” A new voice filled the silence. Buffy and Spike’s heads shot up to the balcony and in unison their brows arched in surprise. The newcomer could be nothing but a watcher, dressed in a tweed suit and with long curly black hair tied back in a messy ponytail at the base of her neck. Curious brown eyes peered over a pair of half moon reading glasses as the woman slowly made her way down the metal ladder, a pronounced limp becoming apparent as she made her way down to the shop floor. When she reached the floor, her hand reached out and grasped the cane leaning against the ladder and she limped slowly towards Buffy and Spike.
“Hello. I’m Gemma, you are Buffy and I believe you’re William the Bloody, aka Spike.” The young woman thrust out her hand and smiled broadly. “What a delight to meet you both.” She took Spike’s hand and shook it vigorously and then in turn took Buffy’s, repeating her enthusiastic handshaking. “I really have heard so very much about you both. Did you know you’re both standard reading for all Watchers In Training.”
Buffy edged closer to Spike, unconsciously wanting to protect him from the limping watcher. She could sense the others moving around and settling into established routines. Anya had returned to her side and clinging to her hands, her engagement ring cutting into Buffy's flesh. 'Whoa! Engagement ring?'
"Anya!" she exclaimed and held up the ex-demoness's hand to let Spike see the small diamond glittering. A bolt of excitement shot through her and Buffy turned her wide smiling eyes to Xander. “Oh Xander, lookat you all growed up!”
"I know, it is the perfect ring. Xander wants to marry me. Can you believe it? Me!" she squealed excitedly.
Before Buffy could do more than hug Xander and Anya, the three silent men returned and sat down at the circular table, joining a quiet Tara and Gemma. Both women were watching the dynamics between the two blonds. Neither of them had missed the scarring on the erstwhile slayer's neck, or the way the
two of them interacted.
It was Buffy's innocent question that shifted the moment of glee to a more sober note. "Where's Willow?" With those two words everything shifted and the mood darkened. Anya's shoulders shot up defensively; Xander's face took on a pallid cast and Tara's eyes flashed angrily.
"Wondered when you would notice," she muttered under her breath. The angry Wicca only calming down slightly when Xander placed a gentle hand on her rigid shoulder.
"I think you may want to be seated. A lot has happened since you left." Gemma gestured to the empty seats.
"So it'd appear," Spike muttered. His sharp eyes missed nothing. The air of tension that now filled the room was setting his hackles on edge and he pulled Buffy to his side. "What the hell is going on?"
"Willow…Wills..." Xander looked down at his hand, and realised he was clutching Tara's shoulder, trying to anchor himself. He didn't want to tell Buffy what had happened to their best friend. He knew part of her would blame herself for what had happened and that was wrong. She wasn't to blame. Buffy had lost everything and there was no way he was going to add to her misery and nor was anyone else. He ruefully acknowledged to himself that a few months ago he’d have been very different, bitching at her for her choices and for abandoning them to their own fate. But what a difference a month or two makes. He could see Buffy for who she really was, much like Spike did. A young girl who had shouldered the weight of the world on her slender frame for far longer than anyone should. She had finally been able to escape and there was no way he was going to damage her fragile psyche. He loved her too much for that.
"The young girl was turned by a vampire," Weatherby interjected. He realised that it was better that a stranger handled this announcement, the Slayer's friends were barely able to mention the girl's name, let alone attempt to dust her. He and the others had agreed that when they got a chance, one of them would do it. That way there would be no recriminations or wavering; she was a feral demon and not the girl that these people were mourning. He had his orders from Travers—maintain the balance on the Hellmouth and if the Slayer was to return, work with her and not against her. Well she was back and he was guessing for some reason other than a nice visit to have a cuppa and catch up on the latest traumas that the core group had suffered.
Spike wrapped an arm around Buffy's hunched shaking shoulders; she had curled in on herself despite his hopes. He stared over at Tara's implacable face, a frown cutting across his brows. "When?"
"Same day as…well…Dawnie," Anya whispered sadly.
"What?" Buffy's head shot up. A wild look filled her tear soaked eyes as she scanned the faces opposite her. Her brain shut down as images of Dawn’s last few minutes flashed through her mind. She had slowly put herself back together after that horrific day and now it was all coming back to haunt her with a vengeance that was winding, leaving her clutching at her chest for a moment
"As far as we can tell, she was turned in the morgue. She went to check on you and Dawn and never came back." Tara's voice was measured and filled with a suppressed rage. "Where were you? Why didn't she find you? What happened in there? We found Dawn, but then you were gone. The house was sold and then nothing."
"But there were no vamps in there. Spike and I got rid of the one who…who..."Buffy ignored Tara's demanding questions, a small part of her frazzled mind noting that her friend's stutter was long gone. All of them had been changed that day - and not for the better. Buffy hung her head in despair; she felt Anya's thin fingers drop onto her leg and give her a reassuring squeeze, offering silent support and comfort.
"Yeah, no nasties in there. I would've sensed it," Spike interrupted before Buffy said the words. He hated them and refused to hear them fall from her lips, not again. Was bad enough having to come back to the scene of her sister’s death, but his girl was finally healing and he didn't want her to say it again. Not after all those weeks of her screaming and crying for her sister and mother. The horrors of the nightmares falling from her lips as she clutched at him, terror haunting her red rimmed eyes as she let the words tumble from her mouth. He had not wanted to come, but as soon as they had realised that the green-eyed bastard was not dust, there had been no choice. He had to be destroyed for what he’d done to the Bit and now for Red. “Never thought he’d have the same talent as Drac…”
Spike looked at Tara and before he could say anything she stood abruptly, her chair falling backwards with a loud crash. Xander leapt out of the way with a yelp. Tara looked over at Buffy and then stared at Spike without a hint of the compassionate girl he’d punched on the nose only a short while ago. “I have to go, I can’t stay here. Buffy, I’m sorry. I…I…I’ll see you tomorrow?” With that she vanished in a flicker of an eye. All that remained was a smell of burnt cordite.
Spike’s scarred brow shot up at her display of power. “Seems like Glinda’s got a mite bit more going on in the mojo department these days,” he commented laconically, slouching back in his chair and looping his thumbs in his belt buckle. He noticed the three Watcher boys exchange a glance and lean forward almost in unison. Their military training apparent in the deftness of their moves and their almost symbiotic behaviour.
“She’s been working with Anya and I, strengthing herself. She’s come on in leaps and bounds since that day.” Gemma fiddled with her cane and met Spike’s eyes unflinchingly. “We’ve all needed to be on guard since he began to make waves around here.” Absently she rubbed her leg, trying to ease the stiffness. “He’s strong and unpredictable and unlike any other demon I have ever come across or read about.”
“He gotta a name?” Spike focused on the woman, taking in her soft features. There was something about her, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it yet.
“Not that we know of. No one knows where he came from, how old he is or even how he managed to get all the power at his beck and call. It’s very frustrating.”
“He hides behind his minions; has a habit of turning ones with some power be it magical or martial. We’ve been on damage control since we got here. He’s a savvy bastard.” Smith ran his fingers through his thinning hair tiredly.
Buffy sat there frozen, guilt filling her. If she hadn't left, Willow wouldn't be dead. It was all her fault. She was cursed; death was her gift to all that knew her. Only one who was safe around her was Spike-- and that was because he was already dead. Her face turned white as her mind tried to accept that her redheaded friend was gone, now replaced with a repellent demon. They'd all had first hand experience with vamp Willow in the past and Buffy was praying this incarnation was not as feral. She couldn't say anything; instead, she clutched onto Spike's hand and stared blindly ahead.
“Don’t get it. I killed the bastard.” Spike rubbed his chin as he unwillingly recalled the events of that day. He reached over and took Buffy’s shaking hand and squeezed it, trying to reassure her.
"Well, he must have something to bring him back. He's an odd bugger is all we can work out," Collins commented, his hands busy sharpening the stiletto dagger on a whetstone he'd retrieved from the training room. "Nothing like any other vamp we've ever come across before."
"How so?" Spike's rough voice took on a more polished edge as he snapped out the question. Both he and Buffy dreaded the answer; they already knew what was coming.
"Well he has very funny looking eyes, a brilliant emerald green," Gemma explained. She reached for a folder and began to pull out reams of paper and a series of pictures taken from the security videos at the shop. "This is all I have so far. We managed to get images only the other day. He seems to be a very reclusive type, relying on minions to do his work and hunting. With that, she handed them over to Spike.
He took one look and began to curse. Spike placed the graining images of the vampire infront of Buffy. He hadn’t wanted to accept the information that the others had given him, but there was irrefutable proof in black and white.
"I don't want to, I know..." she whispered, her voice small and tired.
"I don’t get it. We dusted this bastard. How the bloody hell did this happen?" Spike growled. "Where the ruddy hell is the Watcher and what are all you lot doing here?"
"Giles, well…umm, he's indisposed." Gemma flushed bright red.
“I called Travers and asked for help,” Xander whispered. He was worried that Buffy might view his actions as a betrayal, but he’d been tired and desperate and fighting what he had feared to be a losing battle. There was no way he was losing anyone else, so he’d bitten the bullet, stolen Giles’s phonebook and called the Council.
To this day he was still in shock over how easily Travers let them all off. The older man had basically admitted that Buffy wasn’t the official Slayer, Faith was, and that he’d let Buffy fight Faith’s battles as there had been no one else. He’d sent over the Three Stooges, the same ones who’d tried to ‘retrieve’ Faith and he’d been ready to hate them. Instead they’d knuckled down and helped out. The best result had been Gemma. She’d seamlessly moved into their lives, becoming their friend and confidant.
"The old tosser's a drunk and a liability," Collins interjected. "Nearly got Tara and Anya killed a few months ago on patrol. So we suggested he take a short sabbatical."
"Giles's drinks?" was all Buffy managed before she burst into tears.
"Where is he?" Spike pinned the thin man with a glare. He knew that the Watcher was the only thing that Buffy had left of an adult influence and to hear he had feet of clay and nearly killed two of her friends because of his boozing was not good. On top of losing her sister, mum and now Willow, she
was being told her Watcher was a booze hound. He was aching to pick her up, get into the Desoto and bugger off home. Gritting his teeth, the irate vampire pulled Buffy out of Anya's arms and onto his lap.
"Any other good news?" he asked sarcastically. Part of him acknowledged he was being a flippant arse, but an even smaller part was hoping that the watcher bird was going to announce the Hellmouth had sealed itself and that all was well in the world. Running a soothing hand down Buffy’s tense back, soothing her, Spike blotted her tears with his free hand. So far their first night was a bundle of laughs and they still hadn’t gone to visit the graves. They were all so damaged and he didn’t want Buffy to be pulled down by any of them. Not after the months away from here and watching her slowly come back to life. Gradually becoming the girl he suspected she had been before that fateful day on the steps of her old school in Los Angeles. And he liked it, he loved all of her, but to see that carefree smile flitter across her pouting lips in the last few weeks had been utter bliss. Yet here she was in tears shaking in his arms, back on the Hellmouth and having the soul sucked out of her by a series of events that no one could’ve prevented. But he must also see the seriousness of what is going on. He has to think of the others left behind, because leaving and them dying would kill her and that would never bring back the Buffy he loved.
“Well, Willow isn’t that powerful a vampire as far as we can tell. She seems to be quite weak and is rarely seen out hunting.” Gemma sighed and rested her chin on her cane in a move that was practised. Her brown hair was rumpled and escaping from its tie, the faint lines around her mouth and eyes deepened showing her tiredness.
“Good lord. Is that Buffy? I thought she’d buggered off.” A slurred voice drew their attention to the front of the shop and Giles stood swaying dramatically in the doorway, blood dripping from a cut on his forehead. “S’cuse me, I just popped in to find a hankie. I appear to be leaking.” With that he collapsed in a heap on the floor.
“Oh a ruddy perfect end to the reunion from hell!” Spike growled.
A/N Phew the last of the poll is now done and all chapters promised now posted! Next week have an extra treat lined up so you will have to check in here as I will have something special to post along with another chapter of Something Wicked! Busy bunny aren't I?
Would love to know what you all thought of the above chapter as it was fun to write and I'm worried about the reunion also what do you thinks of Gemma? Did you expect CoW boys? Let me know if you liked - thank you
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